Skate of the Nation: Weaver Wonders


Posted 4 months ago in More

Weaver Park has become one of the refuges for the skate community in the city as they negotiated various lockdowns and finding a safe space to hang out in. Phil Halton and photographer Alex Sheridan hung out with some of its patrons back in the autumn and last month gauging their thoughts on life and the city.

 

I began skateboarding in Dublin 13 years ago, just as we were hit by the crash. It was the best thing that could happen for a group of young ones, the city became ours over night. Our refuge of Portobello had been skate stopped for a second time, so we took to the streets in search of abandoned buildings and unfinished office blocks to turn into skateparks and canvases.

Disregarding the meaning of all the boarded up windows, we were free to do as we pleased. Security guards were a rare sight and an underfunded police force could care less about us. Skateboarding began to thrive, night clubs were in full swing and the creativity around Dublin at a time of such hardship was motivating.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

I had the blessing of being part of a unique scene in a unique city. With so many talented photographers, skaters, writers and people I put together a magazine named goblin, to showcase the talent across Ireland and its often overlooked quality. Skateboarding celebrates DIY culture, disregarding any formal approaches and doing things your own way, from turning disused pitches into skateparks to commandeering the streets for events. Today, Dublin’s lifeline is in its people’s DIY approach. So many years of being tossed underground by high rent, hotels and archaic licensing laws leave no other option.

The next few years in Dublin won’t be like the ones following the crash, they’ll be spent outdoors in mobile settings, drifting through the streets from spot to spot. We won’t have the night clubs, galleries, art studios or mates gaffs because they’ll all be gone, sold to the highest bidder. Instead our parks, squares, laneways and streets will be our venues. Our authorities only have so many fences after all.

I’ve never seen Dublin as a welcoming place for its young. However it’s never stopped the youth from throwing back two fingers and doing their thing anyway. There is plenty to be pissed off about but I’m glad the energy we had in our early teens was spent exploring every street, lane and cul-de-sac in search of excitement instead, and that same energy is still evident in the youth today.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

2021 has exploded the use of the streets in Dublin with so many people now aware how stacked against them this city is. However few facilities may exist it is the first time I’ve seen people use this city in their own unintended ways on a massive scale. Just as it was following the crash, it is the youth who will keep this place alive with their invention, enthusiasm and re-imagining of a city to make it fit for purpose for everyone. That is, as long as we support rather than thwart them.

 

Luke Kroon (18)

“It didn’t feel like a city, more like a massive, very street inspired, skatepark”

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

Have you found skateboarding offered you something different compared to other people your age in school?

Yes I have, it’s offered me a way to be creative while many are stuck playing a more standardised sport. Skateboarding in Dublin is a small but ever-growing scene and is in many ways looked upon as an outsider sport. Because of skateboarding, almost all of my social connections are with people outside of school, with people all over the country. What I see in school is that many will hang around each other in school and outside it, which in my opinion, eliminates a perspective they could get from trying something new.

 

How has skateboarding affected how you see Dublin, and public space?

When I was younger, I used to see the city the same as many others, shops and places to eat. As I grew older and got involved with skateboarding, I began to see new possibilities. I began to see new things to skate in public spaces. Although many of the places we skate are public property, we are still moved on. Skateboarding has allowed me to have a different point of view on everyday objects such as benches. As skateboarders, we are not confined to one specific area or obstacle, we see new possibilities within the city every day.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

Have you used the city much in the last year and, if so, how have you found it? Was it intimidating since there were less people around?

Towards the end of the first lockdown is when I first started using the city again. I loved how empty it was, way less people around when you were skating. It didn’t feel like a city, more like a massive, very street inspired, skatepark. There was no intimidation around when less people were watching you skate.

 

Do you think parks and public spaces make a difference to young people’s social lives?

Of course they do. As soon as a public area is taken away from the youth, they can quickly lose interest in what they were doing. Many of these people will turn to drugs as many don’t have much else to be doing. Closing down skateparks and public areas can be detrimental to the development of young people.

 

Allie O’Rourke

 “The fact that an entire city can have its square taken away as punishment for ‘bad’ behaviour is like a farcical 1984.”

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

 

What are your thoughts on what happened at Portobello when it was fenced off? 

It’s part of a clear pattern of the commodification of public space. You only have the right to exist in Dublin if you pay for it. The fact that an entire city can have its square taken away as punishment for “bad” behaviour is like a farcical 1984.

 

In what way does the housing crisis effect you or your friends in the city? 

As I’ve hit 30, I’ve noticed an attitude shift in my friend group. We’re all weary from living in what seems to be a hostile city. Everyone is shifting their focus to the countryside and abroad. It’s not even a case of wanting to build a family or changing needs, just very few of them see a future in Dublin.

 

Have you found skateboarding offered a sense of meaning throughout this year, or a way to stay focused? 

I wouldn’t say it was a way to focus. It’s more a case of escapism. It’s been a way to distract myself from everything that’s been happening. It’s allowed me to explore the city in a safe way and approach it in a creative way. Every little nook and cranny has become a potential source of fun. Maybe playing with a child’s toy as a source of escapism is reaction to the government’s paternalism.

 

What important lesson have you taken away from the last year in various lockdowns and scenarios, and how have you changed personally?

It’s just so important that you find a way to shift how you view the world. It sounds cheesy but the need to find a silver lining is so important. That, and I’m weirded out by crowds bigger than five.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

 

What hopes or ambitions have you got for the upcoming year as things begin to open up? 

Selfishly, I’m just excited to see what happens in the different scenes I’m involved in. We have the opportunity to rebuild the scene in new and exciting ways. Also, just the opportunity to see friends that I’ve only known digitally for the past year.

 

What was the most inspiring thing you’ve seen in the community in this past year?

Every community I’m in has had a #metoo moment over lockdown. The strength and courage it takes for anyone to speak up has got to be the most inspiring thing I’ve seen. It’s up to all of us to believe these women and support them.

 

Chloe Christie (Revisited)

“Appreciate being able to do what you love, you never know when it can be taken away from you and human connection is really the most important thing.”

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

Since we last spoke, we’ve gone through about five months of a consistent lockdown, how have you adjusted to the situation and did you ever expect it would drag out for this long after Christmas?

I’m not sure how I’ve adjusted, I guess like most people it’s had an effect on my mental health, not being able to see family and friends for so long and then the constant drag of winter. It’s been a hard five months for everyone. But now at least there’s more clarity, a bit of light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines and the weather improving, I got a lot of painting by numbers done I’ll tell you that haha.

 

You’ve taken a bad hit with Long Covid, was it something you didn’t anticipate as a young person?

I was always concerned as everyone was due to passing it on more than anything else, I never expected to get this weird muscle inflammation from it and I really did not expect for it to be so ongoing. I think it’s something that should be pointed out more to younger people, just because you’re young and healthy doesn’t mean it can’t affect you in weird long term ways.

 

Have you found skateboarding offered a sense of meaning throughout this year, or a way to stay focused?

100% skating and SkateBirds gave me focus and an outlet, not just for creativity but also for community, a safe place to exercise and get some well needed headspace, more and more people are skating now and we’ve also been able to start floating some merch to people so that’s been a big positive focus lately.

 

What are your thoughts on what happened at Portobello when it was fenced off? 

I honestly don’t think it’s surprising, our government do not want public spaces in this city, it’s clear from the constant hotels, the treatment of homeless people, the lack of basic toilet facilities and even bins, we’re supposed to have an outdoor summer from our overpriced bedrooms unless we’re willing to pay.

 

In what way does the housing crisis effect you or your friends in the city?

Dublin is becoming, in my opinion unliveable, the rents are still increasing, there are no houses to buy and if there is they are well above the average young person’s salary and there’s absolutely nothing being done to change that.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

My friends are predominately in the same boat – if their parents haven’t helped them out by letting them live rent free or with a deposit there’s no way they’ll be buying a house in the next few years in the current climate and not that many of us have those options.

 

What important lesson have you taken away from the last year in various lockdowns and scenarios, and how have you changed personally?

Appreciate being able to do what you love, you never know when it can be taken away from you and human connection is really the most important thing. I’ve changed in a lot of ways, adapting to being a lot more sedentary for the time being has made me respect the use of my body a whole lot more.

 

What hopes or ambitions have you got for the upcoming year as things begin to open up?

To see my family and to be able to skate again are really the only two ambitions I have right now.

 

Daniel Carroll

 “I missed the buzz!”

Have you used the city much in the last year and, if so, how have you found it? Was it intimidating since there were less people around?

No, I actually preferred it as we could go skate places that we couldn’t skate before because of security kicking us out or places being too busy to skate. I didn’t really find it intimidating. It was a bit overwhelming, at first, when places started opening up to see so many people out at once, but it’s definitely a good thing to see all my mates and see town so lively again, I missed the buzz!

 

Do you think parks and public spaces make a difference to young people’s social lives?

Yes, they have made huge difference in my life, it is where I met all my friends and have made so many good memories.

 

What are you looking forward to now that everything is reopening again?

Being able to travel and go skate different spots in Ireland and abroad, also lurking in Highrollers.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

Were you worried about catching Covid? 

Not for myself but for the safety and well-being of my friends and family, yes.

 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from the last year?

To appreciate what you’ve got while you’ve got it!

 

Charlie Croome-Carroll

“What’s the point of a city if you can’t use it?”

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

What was the most inspiring thing you saw in the community this past year?

I would have to say the surge of people taking up new things and putting more time into their local surroundings. The city will hopefully become a bit more ‘user friendly’ with more people spending time here and investing effort into its improvement.

 

How important is Weaver Park to you?

Weaver Park is brilliant because it gives a creative space for people to use. What’s the point of a city if you can’t use it? Anti-homeless spikes, skate stoppers or kicking people out of places like Portobello and Powerscourt is completely against the whole idea of a city, getting rid of creative places for people to congregate and facilitate collaboration. I used to live in Temple Bar which was chaotic every weekend.

 

What does skating mean to you?

I only started skating two years ago, there was a period of time where I was going through it and I really didn’t know where I was going with my life. I used skating to distract myself and cope with a lot of those problems as something I could concentrate on. I was working in a bar in town – the mental health problems in the service industry are massive. Bad sleeping patterns and substance abuse, bad health.

Skating is great for keeping a healthy routine, I think of skateboarding as dancing. Everyone who steps on a skateboard has a different way of using it and expressing themselves. You can be in a good or a bad mood and use skating as a means to channel that energy more effectively and express it.

Editorial, Portraits, Weaver Park, Dublin 8

Skateboarding has that aspect of pushing your boundaries all the time until you fail, and then figuring out that you just need to adjust small things to achieve the trick.

In a country that rains more days in the year than it doesn’t, why do we not have an indoor skatepark in the city? I think people in the council do listen, but the process takes so long that by the time one person has the idea put together that person moves on to another area and you start again.

 

What important lesson have you taken away from the last year in various lockdowns and scenarios, and how have you changed personally?

I’ve had more time to myself recently and I have definitely learned to appreciate my surroundings as you never know when you might have to lockdown again. Personally, I think this pandemic has shown people a lot of gaps in thinking where there’s room for improvement and I have some personal goals I’d like to work on.

 

What hopes or ambitions have you got for the upcoming year as things begin to open up?

See more friends and get out of the city more – I’m interested to see what people want to do with their time, now after a year locked down and what changes this might have on what is being offered for young people other than pubs.

Words & Interviews: Phil Halton

Photography: Alex Sheridan

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